Tag Archives: By hand London

Farewell my friends and thank you, thank you – it’s been a blast x

Dear all lovely blog readers, generous commenters and all round warm hearted lovers of sewing.  This post has been a long time in the offing, attested by me not having posted for er…. quite a few months.

In a month’s time I will be closing my blog down.  I just haven’ got the time to write these days, nor photograph myself in all the things I continue to sew.   So I wanted a chance to say a massive thank you to you all, for the fun I have had over the years expressing myself …in the means of my wardrobe in daft & less daft scenarios.  I have loved sharing my sewing process & mistakes and learnings.  I have soaked up (& still soak up) everything I learn from others to make me a better sewster.  From the bottom of my heart thank you for all your support.

One last update.

The last 18 months have been a time of vast change:  moving house from the city to the beautiful Somerset countryside and leaving my employer of 15 years to work for a wonderful new company.  I work full time in four days sat at a PC all day (my hours will change soon) and this has squeezed my free time & energy meaning that I have had to prioritise.  Sadly for this ol’ blog, but not surprisingly, the last thing I fancy is yet more screen time!

A badger sett- no kidding this wood is festooned with them

I have a new relationship – with my surroundings.  I am besotted with the countryside & love being outside in my garden.  I am a yearning runner – I need to get out and about after being restrained for the first four days of my week.  There are millions of footpaths to explore & lambing time?  Oh simple pleasures, but such a novelty for a town mouse like me.  I take walks/ runs through the fields to check on their progress.

Sewing still gets a big chunk of my time.  I am truly addicted to sewing new things to wear- there is always a reason – whether it’s a holiday or a night out.  Or just a new look.  I am a sucker and over the next year will try to channel my sewing & design skills into a few cushions & a bit of patchwork for the cottage.  Don’t expect me to be making covers for my food processor though 😉  And when I say channel, it’s just to check myself that I am not becoming too obsessive & a serial sewer!  I am making much more ‘value’ clothing using more expensive fabrics so that I feel I am less of a consumer of fast fabrics/ sewing.  This summer I have invested in a few linens to make what I hope will be timeless classics….

I did patchwork!

I had wanted to write to tell you about some of my recent sewing adventures.  For example I bought myself a sewing holiday.  The Sew La Di Da Vintage Body Blueprint course.  Four days in Caroline’s studio creating a pattern that fits my body shape, developed ( using pattern cutting superpowers) into a dress design of my choice.  It is even more of a sewing holiday as the setting is Beautiful Lyme Regis, on the Dorset coast, which is a place worth visiting in its own right.   I cannot recommend this course enough.  We all come in different shapes & sizes & it’s amazing how even a customised toile in calico can make everyone look a million dollars.  Seeing everyone in their own beautifully fitting toile was a delight.

My day’s sewing


With the ace support during the course I wanted to make a basic ‘quick & easy’ perfect  dress – ‘A’ line skirt, sleeveless bodice with French darts.  Tick.  (And I whipped up one of these yesterday to wear to a Hen do -photo above) From this basic I designed something a bit more special.  Flared the skirt a bit more, adapted the bodice –  added a bias collar, ruched waistband, gathered bust darts.

All conjured up in beautiful cotton lawn.  Serious adoration.

I’ve also been pattern testing – most recently the Orsola dress for By Hand London.  I made the wrap skirt in red linen & it’s been a firm fave this summer.  So pretty.

I have made a maxi dress – for the daytime- this has always been a challenge for me as I don’t like covering myself up if the sun’s out, but recognised there is a time & a place for a longer skirt … on holiday for me.  This is the Named Kielo Wrap dress in a viscose.  Lovely to wear – in my case early evening when it’s still warm enough but once the sun’s gone down I’m grateful for a little more leg covering, but still so lovely & cool & floaty.  A gorgeous pattern.

I have also made the Deer and Doe Datura top in a silk from the Fabric Godmother.  With piping.

Since taking the photo I went back & stabilised the hem and resewed it.  Where its silk & has some bias in the hemline, it really benefitted from being secured by that double sided hemming tape (this disappears in the wash).

My favorite this summer has been a pair of 1980s cropped wideleg trousers.  Sadly no photo to show, but this is the original!

Betty Jackson wideleg cropped trousers in a lovely indigo soft chambray.

I have also been compulsively sewing Grainline Scout Tees for the summer.  They must be one of the best wardrobe builders & perfect for showcasing cute fabrics.

Croft Mill bumble bees 

Cotton and Steel from the Village Haberdashery (a few years in my stash)

Liberty Lawn from Sewbox (I got this at the Knitting & Stitching Show when I actually met Susan, the lovely owner 🙂 )

I’ve been playing with my firm favorite: ric rac.  On a Tilly and the Buttons Rosa shirt in yellow polka dot poplin.

And was obsessed with the latest Papercut collection, having fallen hardest for the Kochi Kimono jacket via MisforMake.

I used a textured linen from Minerva Fabrics. This is teal (but I’d say more blue than teal).  I have only just finished this so will be test driving it this summer.


Merlin & I are super content in our little cottage in the country.

I shall be making the odd appearance on Instagram (@scruffybadgerti ) and will think about using my facebook page a bit more.  No promises though!

In the meantime, all I can wish you all is for much happiness and successful sewing!

I am eternally grateful for the friends I have made through blogging that I can share more than just my love of sewing with.

Big hugs xxx



Je t’aime …Sarah shirt

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  It seems fitting to be swooning over the newest pattern from By Hand London, the Sarah Shirt.  I was lucky to be one of the pattern testers this time around.  I do think of it as a privilege to be able to contribute in a small way to the development of new patterns during its final stages.  Most of the work has been completed by the time it reaches the testers – we just help roadtest it – the sewing, the reading and the fit.

sarah shirt

And I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t like getting a preview of the next pattern before it is available 🙂

So when I saw the drawings for the Sarah Shirt I whooped.  I have made many of the By Hand patterns and these ladies have a great sense of style & occasion & I would say a penchant for frocks.  I was not expecting their next pattern to be a blouse/ shirt!  And such a graceful elegant & feminine style.

It is a swing shirt, with a gathered yoke & two collar variations & long or short sleeves.  I opted to make the round Peter Pan collar version with long sleeves so I could get wearing it now.  It suits fine drapey fabrics.  I had some chiffon in my stash and thought it would be ideal, I also knew I had enough.

sarah shirt

As it was chiffon, I sewed it with French seams and in some of the photos you can see that not only does this method work very nicely for fabrics that are fine & fray, but as it is sheer you can also see the seam finish from the outside, so French seams are much more attractive than even overlocked edges!

It is a lovely shirt to sew with some nice details- all the soft gathers at the yoke, the sleeves too.  It doesn’t have some of the additional pieces that can be irritating – eg no separate button band (it’s folded at the centre front instead) there is also no neck facing (unlike the Colette Patterns Violet blouse).   The yoke is also  finished in the ‘burrito’ method so all sewn by machine.   Like I said nice finishes, nice details.

sarah shirt

This shirt also has LOTS of buttons- I used 12 !  So a real showcase for some really pretty dainties.  The cuffs are fastened with press studs, so the 12 buttons are on the centre front alone!  If I had more buttons, I think I would also use them n the cuffs because sewing buttons is far less tedious to me than sewing press studs!

sarah shirt

So the wearing of the shirt!  I have worn it loose over trousers & think that it accessorizes very well with an afternoon G&T!

sarah shirt

Here I am wearing it tucked into my Ultimate pencil skirt & I should say that this whole outfit was incredibly comfortable – I wore it all day & all night (we went to the theatre).   I have been told there are elements of Librarian chic going on here!   I have not got pics, but this collar also looks awesome underneath a V neck sweater, for real.

sarah shirt

The joy of this poly chiffon (apart from its pindots!) is that it is so easy to care for & will not need ironing YAY!  But I do hanker after a more luxurious version…in silk perhaps ….what do you think?  Have you got any visions for what you see this shirt being made up in?

sarah shirt

And if you fancy making your own, the Sarah Shirt pdf pattern is available here.

Cinco de Mayo! Flora-worth

So here is my Mexican dress for a crayzzeeeee Cinco de Mayo party (already previewed as part of my first May Made May round up).  Yep there were Margueritas, wraps, amazing veg enchiladas (made by me & they went down a storm 😉 ), Sol beer with wedges of lime (I know, it’s so 90s, but we love it) & of course a pinata. Folks came dressed with differing levels of commitment to fancy dress, but there was a fine array of sombreros, ponchos & oversized fake moustachios (& you should have seen the men hahahaha!).

I felt so bad: I finished the pinata off- I know that's the point but it meant no one else could have a go after me :-(

I felt so bad: I finished the pinata off- I know that’s the point but it meant no one else could have a go after me 🙁

So I am glad that I made the effort therefore to make a dress that received compliments aplenty, even from the blokes. I think they were visioning the fabric made up as shirts for themselves. Or couldn’t believe how lucky I was to find a dress that was so appropriate. Well it’s because I sew, innit?

I was organised & made this up with a few weeks to spare. Funny for me, not my usual seat-of-the-pants sewing for an event, but with the marathon I somehow predicted the unexpected lack of time, or more true, lack of energy to spend sewing afterwards.

 Cinco de Mayo dress

The fabric was the starting point. I had a most pleasurable time surfing Fancy Moon (totally obvious choice for themed fabric- I did not need to look anywhere else. ) I had remembered some Frida Khalo fabric, but it was out of stock & also too day of the dead, which when I did my research was so far away from what Cinco de mayo was all about. Like Der. This might seem obvious to peeps living in much closer proximity &/or with much better world history & general knowledge than me, but I admit to blanding out & generalising. I am so sorry- I am truly ashamed to admit how ignorant I was. It always goes to show- do your research! Having done my research it was much clearer that I needed some fierce lady Mexican riders with cacti & even fiercer steeds! Giddy up! This ‘Charras Bright ‘ Folklorico Alexander Henry fabric shot the can right off the range.

Cinco de Mayo dress

But I was only able to stretch to 1.5m so had a challenge on my hands with choice of dress pattern. AND with such a large & bold print there was real danger of being drowned in senoritas & flaring nostrils. BUT (lots of emphasis here with the capitalisation- this is important!) – BUT – I also wanted a pattern that allowed the images on the print to show & not get lost in gathers or pleats. So where do I go for such a dress pattern – one that I have used before? Why the Hepworth dress by Sinbad & Sailor. However, due to the size of the print, I felt that I needed a different bodice, one that showed more flesh. Not knowing how low the neckline would be on me I went for the Flora dress – By Hand London.

And I moved the zip from the centre back to the side. What forethought, I am still pleased with myself on that one!

Matching the bodice to the skirt though was not without its trials. I lengthened the bodice when I cut it out first of all as I wanted it to hit at waist level. Then there was the trial & error exercise matching the bodice darts to the skirt darts. That took a few attempts & lots of line drawing on the skirt 😉

Dart matching

Dart matching

But got there in the end.

Cinco de Mayo

Once I had done that I could attach the skirt to the bodice & then try on. I did have to adjust the bodice length – I think I had been over generous, so once on I could mark where it needed to be & resew. But for all that, it wasn’t too much hard work & it came together relatively easily – even if it was over the course of a few stints rather than solid sewing.

Cinco de Mayo

So it went down very well at the party, especially with my suede jacket & cowboy boots. I am not sure if the strappy Flora neckline suits me particularly- it’s probably why I held out originally, but it’s different from usual & nice to wear. In fact I really like the neckline with the jacket on – just not so sure about the square straps. I won’t be making any changes though & love Mexican food, so think I will definitely use it as my no thought required outfit whenever we have Mexican! Hahahaha!!!

Now I have a bit of catching up to do, so tune back tomorrow if you are at all curious about my second Me Made May round up – the second ten days.  Ta ra!

The Flora skirt

Way hey! I’m on holiday folk, & does it feel not quite real yet? I still feel I’ve got work tomorrow…looking forward to that passing, oh yes! I was making a list today of the massive sewing bender I have continued since finishing my whiteboard & consequently I have many “F.O.”s to show you. Jeepers- there’s a lot.   I seem to have got a form of sewing madness – now I am no longer “directed” by my whiteboard I’ve got a spontaneity steam engine driving me!!!  I will pace myself for revealing them to you. First up I thought I would show you my red Flora skirt.

Flora skirt

Yes I followed the BHL pattern hack to take the gorgeousness that is the almost circle skirt with knife pleats & box pleats from the Flora dress & make it into a skirt. The idea appealed to my sense of practical but super stylish separates as soon as I saw it.

Flora skirt

You know that usually for me it is the fabric first and pattern second? Well it was the opposite with this. When I was in the hallowed Minerva Halls I searched out a suitable fabric for this very purpose – of course red being my basic colour I gravitated towards the reds first & picked out this viscose as it has the most awesome drape & is light weight enough for a summer skirt. (Actually this is an amazing weight for a summer skirt – really comfy to wear) And at £4.99 per metre it’s a bargain. Now the thing you need to know is that if you make the Flora (dress or skirt) out of less than 60” width fabric you may have to compromise a little on the amount of flare & take a small wedge out of the side seams (drawing / folding a new line from the waist to the hem at the point you run out of fabric!) But I did this with this & my Flora dress & you can’t tell can you?


Just a note on sewing viscose – by its nature you are getting a drapey fabric but this means it has the tendency to mess you around a bit on curved & bias edges particularly.  Stay stitching the upper edges ( the waist edges) of each piece help counter this.  Also, when hemming such a full skirt, let it hang over night & measure from the floor up – well that’s what I do anyway – I have my hem marker on Barbarella which is such a boon for skirts like this.

Flora skirt

So making the skirt was a cinch. You just add a waistband. And I also added pockets. I managed to find an invisible zip so followed the instructions in the tutorial to the letter, but then added a bit extra. I was intrigued by the invisible zip plus waistband method- & wanted to replicate the zip finishing at the top of the waistband.  My comfort zone is sewing regular zips that would be different – the zip top would end at the seam joining waistband to skirt.

Flora skirt zip

The tutorial gets you to attach the folded waistband to the skirt first & then insert the invisible zip all the way up the waistband & skirt – well, that’s the look I was after wasn’t it? So before I went on with the zip I bias bound the waistband to skirt seam allowance with pretty black polka dot bias as my overlocked edges were a bit on the scruffy side. And after inserting the zip there is a seam allowance coming off from the waistband as well as the skirt & I wasn’t happy that this looked very neat with my two-tone overlocked edges either. So I bound them with polka dot bias as well. (oops, looks a bit mismatched !)  (I used the selvedge edges for the CB seam so no overlocking required there).


Now I was thinking about how you might add an invisible zip to a skirt all the way up a waistband & not have seam allowances showing. You know, one of those sewing puzzles that occupies a walk to work? And of course you’d have to make the waistband in two pieces – with a facing. Glad I worked that one out.

Flora skirt

So the skirt itself is perfect! It’s got mega swoosh & swing– can you tell?

Flora skirt

I’ve been wearing it a couple of times since I’ve made it to work but it is also darling enough for out of work too. I so like pretty things that suits the two-faces of my wardrobe habits!

Flora  skirt

And two things about the photos.  First I look like death!  I took them before work one morning & it shows that I need a holiday!  But also the blouse is an old make from the 90s.  I love it & it felt to be just the right thing to crack out for the first time I wore my Flora skirt.  It’s made from a posh polyester that I remember cost me more than my habitual cheapskate fabric habits but totally shows that making “investment” purchases, even of fabric pay long term dividends.  It’s survived the years with just a small melt to one of the collar tips with a lazy iron!!  And that’s ironic as it doesn’t always need ironing, being polyester.

So, happy Sunday everyone!!  We’ve got a “mini street party” today with a French theme as it is close to Bastille Day.  That was my contribution – means we can dress up!  Hahaha!!!

Adding piping to a sleeveless bodice

So I’d mentioned in my Flora dress post that I was going to share how I piped the bodice.   I need to get it right up front – I am not an expert!  There are probably other better ways to do this, but it worked for me – & maybe if you know of a better way you can share in the comments?  Because adding piping to the faux wrap top is an added detail that takes the Flora, or any sleeveless bodice methinks, to the next level, and highlights its pretty front, especially, if like me, you are using a patterned fabric.

Piped Flora bodice
I made my piping out of satin bias binding and piping cord, bought at my local haberdashery. You could make your own bias however.

I think I must have bought about 4m of both, as I piped the armholes and the neck edge. So make your bodice up according to the instructions.   If it’s the Flora, I’d recommend using stay tape on the neckline as shown in the sewalong.

Stay tape neck edge

Now you need to work on the piping once you have sewn the shoulder seams. Prepare your piping as follows:

1. Press open the bias binding if you are using bought bias binding

Piping a bodice
2. Now fold the bias in half and press

3. Open out the bias binding and Lay the piping cord in the fold

Piping a bodice making piping
4. Fold the bias in half with the cord in the fold and then pin close to the cord, trapping it in the fold

Piping a bodice
5. With your zip foot, sew along the pin line, securing the piping cord as close to the fold as possible. I always leave a bit of cord hanging out both ends just in case movement whilst sewing or later on means that the bias stretches a bit in relation to the cord. I’d much rather have extra cord, as opposed to not enough.

Piping a bodice
Your piping!!
6. On the right side of your bodice, I find it helpful to mark the stitching line, the seam allowance. I am lazy and run a line of long machine basting stitches with the. 1.5cm seam marker on the throat plate, but you could mark it by hand, with a ruler.

Piping a bodice
7. Next pin the piping to the bodice right sides up. You are aiming to pin the piping with the cord on the inside of the seam line and with the ‘seam allowance’ of the piping, ie the bias edges, pointing towards the edges of your bodice.

Piping a bodice
You are pinning the piping in a continuous line around the neckline, and also around each arm hole. Try to position the piping so that you pin as close to the cord as possible and that this pinned line, cuts through your 1.5cm seam line marked at 6. Above.

Piping a bodice

8. For added security and accuracy I then hand baste the piping to the seam line, trying to get as close to the piping cord as possible and trying to make sure that I am still keeping on top of the 1.5cm seam line of the bodice front / sleeve line.

Piping a bodice

Now this basting is really useful as a marker for the next step!
9. Pin the lining to the bodice, right sides together, with the piping sandwiched in between. Flip the bodice over so that you are looking at the shell rather than the lining and move your pins so that you can sew with the bodice shell on top. And look! You have your basting stitches to use as a sewing guide to make sure you get really close to the piping cord.

Piping a bodice
10. Use your zip foot to sew really close to the piping cord. I have a setting on my machine that allows me to move my needle position around to get close and it’s something I make use of for piping!

So, you sew your lining to the bodice shell capturing the piping in between. Open out your bodice and lining as normal and you should see the most awesome sight of a piped bodice! Give yourself a woop wooop and press. And enjoy.

And now the armhole edges

Now the armholes are sewn in the same way, but make sure you leave some piping extending beyond the bodice front and back to give yourself some extra to join up when you complete the side seams. AND possibly it’s a good idea not to sew the piping all the way to the edge of the fabric, but to start sewing 1.5cm in from the edge so that you are leaving a longish piece extending over the seam allowance, un-stitched. I’m guessing this could help, but did not do it myself- I ended up unpicking some of this seam later on as you will see below.

So how do we get a nice finished piped seam when it goes around in a circle like an armhole?
You could just line up your piping and stitch it as a seam, but the trouble with this approach is that it’s not very polished and there is opportunity for piping to fray. The neatest option finishes the piped circular seam almost as if the cord inside is being swallowed up inside a ontinuous (but joined) tube of piping.   If you like to think of it in DIY or is it plumbing terms, consider it to be a “Male/ Female joint”  – if you can bear it.  Or think of it as if the cord ends up being the distance of the armhole circle and the piping needs to be a longer joined tube to overlap itself neatly with the cord safely hidden inside.

Ok so not easy to describe. Even harder to do!! Here’s how I attempted to do it. Maybe there’s a better way- if so I am all ears and eyes – please leave details in the comments!

So, you are about to sew your side seams, lining and bodice. Without piping you would perform this in one simple straight seam. With piping I took it in two: sewing the bodice and the lining, making sure the piping was facing the right way ( ie the cord needs to be positioned so that it is facing towards the bodice shell.  And leaving a small gap between the side seams around the area of the piping.

Piping a bodice

I stopped sewing (but did backstitch to secure the seams) around the piping for my two separated side seams on lining & shell.

Now it’s about handling the piping and first of all working out the finished size of the circle that you want the piping to form- this involves a bit of trial and error to identify where you would join the circle, and for the edges to meet at the side seam. You are not joining it up at this stage, just working out sizes and from there you can work out what’s spare ….bear with me ….
Piping a bodice
So you have an idea of how big your finished circle needs to be, maybe you’ve marked both pieces of piping with pins where you think the join would be. You may need to unpick a small bit of the seam you’ve already made that secures the piping to the armhole and lining….

Trim your piping on one side at this join mark, but leave a good 1.5cm of the other side of the piping.

Piping a bodice - completing a piped circle
This shows the piping being trimmed very close to the join mark.

Piping a bodice - completing a piped circleThis shows the side that is cut with an extra 1.5cm of piping to the mark.

Now it’s time to get rid of some excess cord. For this, first of all grab some of the cord from inside the piping on the piece you’ve cut snug to the join mark and pull a bit extra from the inside, maybe 2-3 mm and trim the cord (not the bias ) off. On the other side you also want to grab some of the cord and trim it so that you do not have any more than is needed to butt against the other side and form a nice complete circle when you join your seam.
What you’re doing, is getting rid of some of the extra bulk made by the cord – but not cutting the bias binding.  You need this !

Piping a bodice - completing a piped circle

Now with the side that you cut 1.5cm longer than your join mark, fold some of the excess bias binding to the inside of the tube so that it forms to make a neat edge – this is the outside tube & will be on show.  Push it over the top of the other end of the piping – hopefully making a nice joined up circle with the join positioned above the side seam of your bodice.
I secured this new circle of piping with hand stitches.

Now reconfigure your lining, and bodice to machine over some of the gaps – eg underneath the piping on the armhole seam – you may need to use your zip foot- and where you are unable to get in with your machine- a few well placed hand stitches should do.

Piping a bodiceThe pink stitching is new stitching, securing the piping at the side seam.  

Piping a bodiceThat’s what it looks like on the outside.  The thread I used was coral, & looks a bit messy on the blue background – but it serves to show what it turns out like better.  And I’m not a perfect sewster!

Wow, that was complicated to explain, and I may have confused you loads. Which is uber sad if that is so, as I had the best of intentions.  Did it help, or did it scare you too much?

flora 5

As I said, I am not an expert, just trying hard to get a neat finish.  Is there a definitive approach for joining piping?  Have I taken the long way?  What is the holy grail of piping a complete circle?  I bet there’s a Threads article somewhere lurking, isn’t there?

I’m exhausted.  Time for a cuppa!  Cheerio for now 🙂

By Hand patterns = party wear, no?

After a week that imploded I am now most definitely ON HOLIDAY!!!  For a whole fortnight!!!! Woo hoo!!!

Charlotte 1And this post will do without too many words, as it’d be dangerous after a couple of glasses of Cava accompanying a lunch with my girl friends, but it would be remiss for me not to share what I wore. ….this outfit will become the spirit of Christmas 2013…

charlotte 2

Oh it’s perfection!   This is yet another Charlotte skirt from the talented By Hand girls.   It shouts loud tropical party to me, & the peplum is the icing on the cake….Made from the fabric I bought with my Mum in Truro which she overtly detested (she is into muted colours.  This almost made her vomit hahaha).

charlotte6I will make sure to take this skirt with me when I visit over Christmas!  ( She expects nothing less of me).  I actually managed to eek this skirt out of one metre (it’s true) of fabric by cutting the peplum & waistband in two pieces.   The wild fabric design masks it & it was a gamble worth taking.  The fabric has some stretch to it, perfect for the figure hugging Charlotte skirt…

charlotte 9-001

The top is also unblogged – a batwing jersey top from the December Burda mag.  It is to me a match made in heaven.  I love it.  And it got me thinking.  You see I am already very conscious that these next few weeks are my time to get out there for some parties & I have five party outfits, & guess what?  They are nearly all from the By Hand London catalogue!

charlotte 9There is this skirt.  I have also worn my first Charlotte skirt out for a christmas meal.

charlotte 8I would also consider my leopard print Charlotte skirt totally suitable for getting down (note the irony.  ) Then there is my quintessential party dress, my Elisalex.

charlotte 7And I have two more yet to show you.  One of which is yet another By Hand creation.  Conclusive proof that these girls love to party, am I right?  See what I am saying?

charlotte 5In the meantime, you have been watching some sponatneous shots of me, my outrageous Charlotte skirt & what happens when it comes into contact with some groovy tunes & my ankle boots…& Cava…

charlotte 4 Let the pictures do the talking!

charlotte 3-001Time for some fun, I hope you’re all feeling it too.  What a relief to finish work …time for family & friends & parties!!

charlotte 3

I have yet to reply to the lovely comments from my last post (a week ago …where did it go…oh yes, implosion) but a big thank you to everyone who was kind enough to say how much you also love the Spearmint coat...I will have more head space & time now that the last work week before I broke up is over.

But until then, happy weekend everyone.  Enjoy!!

Party!!! It just has to be the Elisalex dress

Well after a couple of slimline posts this week it is time for one of those makes I’ve been hoarding away from you.

elisalex (2)It won’t surprise you that I have had this pattern for quite a while now, but had never quite got around to making it up.  Fabric was my perennial point of dithering.  However, I am at my most creative when I have a deadline to sew for, & having received an invite for not only a jolly October party, but  also a wedding in November, the Elisalex (with long sleeves) appeared to be my winter party dress solution.


Now as you’ll read on the envelope, stiff furnishing fabric is recommended, & I happen to have this gingham furnishing weight fabric from Terry’s Fabrics, but before I made up a gingham frock, I wanted to make me a party dress & happened to remember some viscose jacquard that I’d bought from Birmingham Rag Market.  I can’t believe that this fabric was £1 per metre, clearance!!  It’s LUSH!

So my Elisalex sewing experience was a little flawed in that ages ago I had cut my bodice pieces too small & I’m talking rib-constricting small.  I’m talking super strained zip.  So I had to take another princess seamed bodice that fit me & then created an Elisalex hybrid with all of the gorgeous neckline & low back.

elisalex (6)I think it worked out fine – can you tell that the bodice is not a true Elisalex dress? The rest of the dress came together no problemo.  And the fabric was lovely to sew.  Although it’s not as stiff as the By Hand girls envisioned, it still works nicely & was a lovely weight to be wearing a la party.  It has a little bit of swoosh about it…

elisalex (4)I don’t usually do low backs, but it’s a party dress, isn’t it?  I am keeping the shoulders in place with bra strap retainers – in this case they serve a dual purpose: keeping dress on shoulders & keeping bra straps hidden.

elisalex (3)

I got plenty of dancing in with this little lovely.  I was warm enough not to need a cardigan or jacket, but not too hot that I glowed indecorously.  And it’s all sorted for the wedding now…nice!

elisalex (5)

And now I have a custom fitting Elisalex bodice I can go Elisalex crazy like Dolly Clackett!!  I am so looking forward to a winter day Elisalex dress in gingham with a red empire line bow…

Bet Lynch and Donald Trump would come to blows for this

Question: What do you get if you cross Miss Demeanour and Handmade Jane?

Well, read on & you can find out, knowing that it was these two lovelies that were particularly inspirational in my latest make.  And whilst it’s autumn, a new season to sew for & my head’s been swimming with ideas about what to make, I haven’t got a plan & until write it down I am afraid I am going to get pulled in different directions.  I sense a blog post containing a plan coming…when I force myself to engage the rational organised side of my brain that is & put fingers to keyboard.

Remember this?

Until I make a plan though, spontaneity reigns.  When I have energy that is, I seem to react after seeing something truly gorgeous someone  is sharing in their blog & my imagination & sense of possibility is lured down a new pathway.  At the moment I am weak, oh so weak! (I have so many things to blame marathon training for!!) This make therefore is a quick & dirty one.  Above is the tease I left you with.

Victoria Blazer (2)

And what has it become?  Not sportswear hahaha, even though it was shown during a Great North Run post!  Why, it’s become my own Victoria Blazer from ByHand London.  There have been too many sensational examples splashed across the blogosphere & whilst I kept reading what a simple jacket it is to make, I was not convinced about the particular shape for me.  And talk about being late for the Victoria Blazer party?  I arrived just in time to do the clearing up collecting cans, bottles & paper plates in bin bags, that’s how late I am….

Victoria Blazer 5I don’t suit boxy.  Thanks to Jane though who made a version in a knit I could hold out no more.  Jane had made a few mods including shaping the side seams.  Jane says she doesn’t do boxy either, yet Jane’s version looked so spivvy that I was sold.  I ordered the pattern that day.

Victoria Blazer 3I had no plan for fabric until I remembered some purple Morgan Crepe Jersey that I had spontaneously ordered from Minerva as part of a larger order I’d made a couple of months ago.  I ordered it not knowing really what I was ordering, or what I was going to make but the description & price looked too good to ignore.  This is a mid weight knit in a beautiful plum colour (I’m into plum & purple at the moment).  This fabric could be a lovely autumn dress or skirt or maybe even some lounge pants…..  or a jacket!!

Victoria Blazer 4The Victoria blazer is lined and it was only through reviewing the sewalong and examples of wow jackets being showcased that I remembered Miss Demeanour’s fetching meow jacket with faux animal lining.  Why I had some fluffy animal print stashed away as a result of some gifted by Suzy at a blogger meet up.  It looks wild with the plum!  The plan was hatched.

Victoria Blazer

And it is true what everyone has said – this is a simple jacket to make.  I prepared by some reading through of the pattern instructions & sewalong posts, but really could have followed the instructions there & then.  So construction then was straight forward.  I used my overlocker for most of the seams – except those mainly relating to the collar/ lapels/ centre front.  I really liked the front over-the-shoulder dart & the way that the collar & lapels are attached.  I did not line the sleeves by the way, & whilst I entertained the idea of adding patch pockets, I didn’t follow that one through either.  My revisions  were just side seam shaping & shortening at the hem.

Victoria Blazer 7 (2)

What has worked less well, & I blame myself, (who else ?!) is the whole collar sitting nice & flat job.  I should have added some interfacing to the collar & lapels with hindsight – they are a bit floppy.  The softness of the plum knit combined with the more bulky fluffy lining means that the centre front edges are not as crisp as I’d like – added with the floppy lapels make me compulsively straighten them & pull them down as I am wearing it.

Victoria Blazer 7Left to its ultra floppiness.  Need.to.straighten.lapels.

I have top stitched this edge, through the collar & lapels to help set them in place, as well as strategically catch-stitching the underneath of the lapels & collar to the jacket front.

The hem is also a little disappointing in that the lining peeps out- this I blame on multiple factors – the way the two fabrics work together & the sloppiness of the seamstress! And let’s throw in marathon training too – told you it can be blamed for almost anything 😉

But all in all, considering I have not had the time & energy to sew much recently I have been enjoying wearing it.   It’s a good extra layer for this time of year.

Victoria Blazer 6

Maybe not for work ..

I feel I need to get my leopard skin brothel creepers out & sugar water my quiff….or let’s channel some Trump/ Lynch…they both have *amazing* hair …

Victoria Blazer 9Being modelled with my ByHand Charlotte skirt would you know!

Victoria Blazer 8Neat look!!

My Courtly Anna dress from By Hand London

I want to make my version of this dress …just like this, in black with the slash neck

Source: By Hand London

This is what pulled me in – this dress exactly.  And I WILL make it.  I am fancying it will be in black linen.  But first I was propelled into making my first version with stash fabric after not being able to repel the Anna storms that have been breaking out across the internet….so here’s the story…

anna 4

Lizzy had the right idea- she of three Annas.  The Anna dress is a dress you want to capture as you move.  It has something of the middle ages about it.  I feel like a lady wearing it.  A lady in waiting perhaps? (Although waiting for what, I don’t know)

anna 8

Maybe it’s because this is the only dress that has turned me to the “maxi” length.  It’s not new, but it is to me.  I had a brief fling with a maxi skirt last summer & all I wanted to do was to be caught walking through the sea with it.

I haven’t worn it since, but that’s not because of the salt.  (It awaits transformation …)

anna 2

The Anna dress from By Hand London though?  I still feel as if I am wearing a combination of a nightie or as Roisin put it, as close to a sari as you can get without it being a sari.  But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, it just means that it is outside my usual clothing zone.  But I think it’s worth it.  I already want to make more.  I REALLY want to make a black slash neck maxi Anna (have you got that by now?!) and then a slash neck midi Anna.  And I want to make one for my son’s girlfriend.  She complimented me on this Anna & I could just see her wispy graceful form floating around in a classically simple but super chic maxi dress.

anna 3

So OK, onto my first make opinion.  Everyone who has made this dress raves about how quick it is to make & it’s true.  Choosing the fabric & eeking out what I had was the hard part.  I so wanted to have enough of the fabric I used to make my kimono as an Anna, but absolutely no dice.  (It’s available now here at Minerva by the way, described as a voile & I think it would make a glorious Anna) .The fabric’s pattern had a definite right way up & the skirt pattern pieces are flipped around all over the fabric’s pattern direction, which wasn’t going to work with my 2m!  By the way, thank you Karen for advising that you can lop off about 9” off the hem & still have enough to trip over (as a shorter person that is!).

So fabric choices from my stash were limited.  Luckily I had a length of this blue dotty fabric acquired from Abakhan in May.  No pattern direction at all.  It became my first Anna.  I seemed to want to make it quickly though, since everyone had said what a quick make it was, I too needed it to be quick.  Therefore although I absolutely lurve the slash neckline, I was afraid it might fall too high & I wasn’t prepared to make any time consuming alterations…so I went v neck.

anna 5

I used French seams where I could to construct the dress.  Does anyone else use their serger/ overlocker for the first stage of French seams like I do?  It eliminates the need to trim seams before turning, pressing & sewing the second seam that encloses the first seam?

anna 6

And just like everyone else I also lurve the bust darts- so pretty!  Now I think my bodice could do with a bit taken out of it for next time – the neckline gapes by about 1.5” (& that was after I’d taken a few tucks in the pattern’s neckline before cutting out the fabric) .  I also shaved off a slim wedge at the centre back which seems to have been enough.  But the fit of the rest of it seems pretty good.

anna 1

For once I made a special trip to get an invisible zip and I think it’s worth it, having put it in.  A nice neat finish.  One question I’ve got of the Amazing TaraCat though….how on earth can you get this dress on without a zip?  I am surely not able to get it over my head.

The front split – oh laughs!  I misread the pattern markings & my first seam ended to create a split that was almost pelvic!  Ha ha.  That didn’t stay.  I also read that Lizzy regretted machining hers since it is on display so much, so I took the time to hand sew it, & I am glad that I did.  I also hemmed by hand so that is also invisible.

anna 7

It’s been very much a home dress so far though.  I swaddled myself in it last Sunday after my long run.  The day was grey & cooler & my legs needed some coverage.  At one point I really was the medieval lady when the pashmina came out to wrap around my upper body.  You see this dress & cardigans do not really mix in my view.  It’s too courtly….anyway, it was very much a lounging and entertaining at home dress on Sunday.  And since, it has been a working at home dress.  Padding around the house with bare feet collecting hot drinks & tapping away at my desk.

All this explains its slightly wrinkled appearance in case you were wondering!  It’s being used !!

I do however have a vision of Anna maxi dresses with ankle boots & wrinkled down socks.  A bit of a festival frock perhaps?


Jungle January Charlotte Skirt

At last, I am able to reveal my new fave skirt.  This is my second iteration of the adorable Charlotte Skirt, By Hand London.  Here is my first (very wearable & multi-occasional ).  This latest version was conceived way back in October when the Charlotte pattern was first released & Suzy & I met at the Birmingham Rag Market meet up.  Suzy was kind enough to give me this fabric which was left over after her awesome “Rock Chick Clovers” & the seed was sown….It is a velvet-like needle cord & has a stretchy element to it.  Lovely!  Nice & warm for the winter & should see me into Spring too.

It was “Jungle January”, the  challenge instigated by Annie at Pretty Grievances that willingly pushed this make higher up my list.  The aim, to cloak the interweb in animal print me-mades during January.  Here is mine….

jungle jan

See it?  No?  OK, I’ll come out a bit more…

jungle jan

Are you sure it’s safe to come out?  Ok, I’ll lose the disguise as well & show you a few looks for this skirt.  First of all, earlier this week, it frolicked with the other snow leopards & my fleece Renfrew  & Ooh La La Leggings

Charlotte snow-005

But then it melted & it was time to party- the downhill ice rink has retreated!!

I’m flinging pics at you because I haven’t much to add about the making.  It is a great pattern, I’ve told you before.  i love it.  I used the dental floss gathering method again, summarised in this lil collage below

2013_01_27 Jungle January Charlotte SkirtThat floss is as tough as you need it to be to get all that length of gathering done, & with fabric as thick as velvet-cord it needs to be heavy duty.  It’s really easy – just use a slightly wider zig zag than normal.


Here we are from behind- I didn’t use a concealed zipper again, purely because I didn’t have one …

JJ Charlotte 1

So I’m pleased with it – & it’s comfy as well as smart.  I still couldn’t bring myself to break the formula that I love & chose the hem not the peplum.  I’m sorry, just couldn’t do it!!